By Bill O’Neill

Fun might be part of the title, but putting together three big annual events is a lot of work for Cape Cod Charitable FunRaisers. Founded in 1992, the group is undergoing a major transition in leadership this year.

CCCF raises awareness and funds for local nonprofit organizations through the Last Gasp, the Spectacle of Trees, and Roll the Rock. In 2016, CCCF raised over $600,000.

Founder William “Bill” Murphy has led the organization since its start, but he recently decided to retire from CCCF.

“It has been my great pleasure to serve our community for the past 25 years,” he says. “I’ve had the privilege to work on behalf of wonderful charitable organizations, and to develop lifelong friendships.”

“Earlier this year, I realized it was time for me to begin a new chapter, and am delighted to pass the leadership of CCCF and its board to a dedicated community citizen, Sharon Hawkins.”

Hawkins, a longtime community volunteer, is the president of the newly reorganized CCCF board of directors.

“I’ve known about Cape Cod Charitable FunRaisers and all the wonderful work that Bill did for 25 years,” she says. “I was told that Bill had decided to retire and Cape Cod Charitable FunRaisers was perhaps going to close. A group of people came to me and said, ‘Let’s pull a board of directors together and let’s see if we can continue all this great work that Bill has been doing.’”

Joining Hawkins on the new board are Kasey Boyle (vice president), George Searles (treasurer), Guy Morse (clerk), and Sharon Brown. Previous board members Jessica Sylver and Rob Nichols are staying on.

“We approached the Greater Hyannis Area Chamber of Commerce to see if they would help us with day-to-day management of the events,” said Hawkins. “We are very grateful that the Chamber is volunteering their time to coordinate everything and be the funnel that all the information comes into.”

The three annual events are organized by CCCF, but rely on the commitment of each beneficiary organization’s volunteers. It’s worth the effort, because 100 percent of donations go to a donor’s selected charity.

The Last Gasp, the original CCCF event, is a one-day bike ride from Sandwich to Provincetown. At the end of the ride, cyclists ride a boat from Provincetown back to the Sandwich Marina. The event concludes with a lobster bake and awards ceremony at the American Legion Hall in Sandwich. The 26th annual Last Gasp will be held on Sunday, September 17. This year’s beneficiaries are Cape Cod Child Development, Cape Cod Literacy Council, Champ Homes, Cotuit Center for the Arts, Hyannis Kiwanis, Latham Centers, Lyme Awareness of Cape Cod, and WE CAN.

The Spectacle of Trees showcases elaborately decorated trees, each one surrounded by stacks of gifts. Visitors to the event can see the trees and buy raffle tickets for a chance to win one.

The event has increased its fundraising every year, raising $194,552 last year. The 12th annual Spectacle of Trees will be held Friday, Dec. 1, through Saturday, Dec. 9. A VIP Party on Thursday, Nov. 30, will provide a chance to buy two for one raffle tickets and bid on wreaths created by the participating charities.

Roll the Rock is a chance for community members to raise money for charity while showing off their bowling skills. Forty teams of four compete in tenpin or candlepin bowling for team and individual prizes. Many of the teams compete in clever costumes.

Roll the Rock 2018 will take place Friday, April 6, at Ryan Family Amusements in South Yarmouth.

Last year, the CCCF events raised a total of $627,306 for local charities. Major beneficiaries included Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod ($90,030), Cape & Islands United Way ($71,367), Hope Hospice ($73,073), Champ Homes ($58,845), Latham Center ($50,151), and Lyme Awareness of Cape Cod ($47,509).

Among the other 2016 recipients were Flower Angels ($21,230), Calmer Choice ($18,000), the Marstons Mills Public Library ($15,665), the Hyannis West PTO ($9,545), and Katelynn’s Closet ($8,940).

“That’s a lot for the smaller nonprofits,” says Hawkins. “Even the larger ones don’t have the resources to manage big events like these.”

“I think a lot of Cape Cod Charitable FunRaisers’ past success has to do with Bill putting all his time and effort into it,” Sylver adds.

“Giving back to the nonprofits in need and keeping the money here on the Cape is huge. People want to help their own charities. He really knew how to get that support from our communities.”

Hawkins expects that the three events will continue with only minor changes. For example, this year’s route for the Last Gasp will remain the same, but the location of some pit stops will change.

“Every year there’s always some input from those who have participated on how it can improve,” she says. “Certainly the riders are giving us great feedback.”

Because there was for a brief time some uncertainty as to whether CCCF would continue, promotion for this year’s Last Gasp started later than usual. To ensure a large group of cyclists, the board decided to lower the minimum each rider must raise to $500.

Hawkins, who is retired from the Dowling & O’Neill Insurance Agency, takes on the role of CCCF president with plenty of volunteer experience. She’s also on the board of Cape Cod Child Development and Blue Coats of Barnstable, an organization that supports local police. She recently finished six years on the board of WE CAN, the last two years as chairman of the board. She’s past chairman of the boards of the Hyannis Area Chamber of Commerce and the Cape Cod chapter of the American Red Cross, and past president of the Rotary Club of Hyannis.

“I don’t play golf,” she jokes. “Can you tell that my community is my passion?”

Each board member is taking on oversight for some aspect of CCCF, including media, social media, fundraising, and logistics.

“The new team will help make a great brand even better and afford these charities the continued support they need,” says Murphy. “Another successful year is in the making!”